I have a clear picture of where I’ll be until about October 2016. Last week, I booked a flurry of awards, mostly with obscure mileage programs to lock in my dates for 2016. Here’s what I’m planning, with links to already written Anatomy of an Award posts:
- 12,500 Delta miles + $77: May: Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro for a long weekend
- Cash ($318): Rio de Janeiro to Bonito, Brazil for three days to Sao Paulo for a long weekend
- 58,225 Singapore miles + $37: May: Sao Paulo to Barcelona in Singapore Suites for three days
- Cash ($53): May: Barcelona to Leipzig, Germany for the weekend
- Train ($33): May: Leipzig to Prague, Czech Republic for a week
- 5,000 Etihad miles + $25: May: Prague to Belgrade, Serbia for five weeks
- Cash or Etihad miles: June to September except two weeks in August: bus, train, or fly within Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia to explore while learning the Serbo-Croat language
- Cash: two weeks in August: low cost carrier (plus maybe buses and trains) to get to Spain and follow the University of Virginia men’s basketball team on its foreign summer tour
- Not booked yet: 50,000 Asiana miles (40,000 SPG points) and small fuel surcharges: September: former Yugoslavia to Virginia in Lufthansa First Class, including Lufthansa First Class Terminal, for a weekend wedding
- Not booked yet: Korean Miles to Fly Delta or Singapore Miles to Fly United: October: Virginia to Hawaii to visit family for two weeks, returning to Chicago for the Chicago Seminars where I will speak twice
I am spending a few weeks in Brazil to visit friends and position for Singapore First Class flight. I was only planning on spending four days in Brazil, but it is unseasonably cold in Buenos Aires, so I am leaving a week earlier than planned. I’ll spend the extra time in Bonito, Brazil, which looks absolutely gorgeous.
I am spending the first two weeks in Europe in Barcelona, visiting friends in Germany, and in the Czech Republic, where I can’t believe I haven’t made it to yet–Prague seems like it is right up my alley. Then the heart of the trip begins.
My main goal for the Summer of 2016 is to learn the Serbo-Croat language. I really enjoy languages. I studied Latin and Spanish in high school and am a bit of a grammar nerd in English. After years of living and traveling in South America and Spain, I am fluent in Spanish. I could, of course, improve further, but I figure that I am good enough that the amount of effort I’d need to improve in Spanish would be better spent learning a completely new language.
In the past I’ve considered Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, and Serbo-Croat. I don’t like Brazil or Portugal enough to want to spend the months there to learn the language, and Bucharest (Romania) is a step below Belgrade (Serbia) and Zagreb (Croatia) in my mind, so I eliminated those languages. Russian was my top choice, but the hassle of getting a Russian visa (I’d have to come back to the United States and wait for days or weeks while the paperwork cleared) and the fact that it rains 15 days a month in St. Petersburg and Moscow during the Summer led me to pick Serbo-Croat. (Yes, I also considered learning Russian in another country but decided against it.)
The benefit of learning Serbo-Croat is that (please don’t start a linguistics debate in the comments over this sentence) it is the language of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia. I can travel throughout those countries while learning the language. I think I’ll spend June in Belgrade with daily language classes to get a base and September in Zagreb. July and August when European capitals thin out as people head to the sea, I’ll head to the Montenegrin and Croatian beaches, and at some point I’ll find time for at least Sarajevo, Bosnia and Plitvice Lakes National Park.
The drawback of Serbo-Croat is that it is a non-romance language with noun declensions, the Cyrillic alphabet (Serbia only), and only 12 million people speak it natively. But I’m going to give it a go and am eager to see what progress I can make in four months.
I plan to spend about 3.5 out of 4 months in Serbo-Croat-speaking countries over the heart of summer. The two weeks outside will be in Spain where I will follow the University of Virginia basketball team as it plays several games against lower division pro teams. (College basketball teams get to take a once-every-four-years international trip over the summer. They do it because it’s fun, and they get extra practices, which are especially useful for newcomers to the program, which UVA has six of this year.) I love Spain, I love UVA basketball, and I am eager to see the new players three months before I otherwise could.
Finally I’ll head back from Europe to the USA in time to catch my friends’ wedding, visit family in Hawaii, and make the Chicago Seminars. That takes me through mid-October, after which it will probably be time to head back to Southern South America as Spring heats up.
Northern Hemisphere Summer 2016 will see me:
- change hemispheres as the seasons change because everyone should live in Summer all year round
- visit family in Hawaii
- visit friends in Rio de Janeiro and Leipzig
- return to favorites like Zagreb, Belgrade, Dubrovnik (cliff jumping!), Sao Paulo, and Spain
- go to the Czech Republic, Bosnia, and Montenegro for the first time
- explore natural beauty in Bonito, Brazil; a Croatian National Park; and the Adriatic coast
- watch UVA basketball play four times in person
- speak twice at the Chicago Seminars
- …and hopefully learn the Serbo-Croat language
I’ll fly in products ranging from low-cost carrier economy to one of the world’s fanciest First Classes on the Singapore 777.
All of the awards were carefully thought out to maximize miles, so I am excited to explain why I’ve been and will be using so many Asiana and Singapore miles, and why you might want to use them also.
Some of the awards even touch on interesting problems like how long a transfer takes, what to do when there is only space in your desired cabin on some legs, and choosing which miles to use.
I still need to book the Lufthansa First Class award from Europe to the United States, and I will need to wait several months as Lufthansa only releases award space in First Class to partners within 15 days of departure. (Please don’t devalue in the next five months, Asiana!)
I still need to book Virginia-Hawaii-Chicago. Right now the award space isn’t very good, but I expect that it improves dramatically as my dates approach.
Hopefully your mid-2016 travel schedule excites you as much as mine excites me. Where are you headed?
I’ll crank out the rest of the Anatomy of an Award posts soon–where I break down how to search the award, how to book the award, what miles to use, and how to get those miles–and I’ll keep this post updated as I do.------------------------------------------------------------
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